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Adoption in Western Australia

Adoption in Western Australia is regulated by the Adoption Act 1994. Adoption is a permanent legal arrangement, finalised by a court order, that cuts the child’s legal ties with their birth family. Parental responsibility is given to the adoptive parent/s and the adopted child becomes a full member of the adoptive family. This means the child will be treated under the law the same as if he or she were the biological child of the adoptive family.

In Western Australia, the only agency allowed to arrange adoptions is the Department of Child Protection and Family Support. Under the WA legislation, the adopted child’s birth parentage is recognised and contact between the birth parents and the adoptive parents is encouraged where possible and appropriate.

Who is eligible to adopt?

To be eligible for adoption in Western Australia you must be:

  • Over the age of 18;
  • A resident of Western Australia;
  • If in a relationship, the relationship must have existed for a minimum of 3 years;
  • If applying as a couple, at least one person must be an Australian citizen.

During assessment, the department will consider the applicant’s ability to care for the child, their willingness to support the child’s relationship with their birth parents and culture, the stability of the relationship (if the applicant is a couple), their ability to provide a suitable family environment; whether they have been found guilty of any offences and whether they are of good character. The department may also consider the age of the applicant, the age of any children already in the family and the applicant’s ability to meet the child’s cultural, ethnic, religious and education needs.

What is the process for adoption in Western Australia?

An applicant to adopt must attend a general information session, then attend two or three education sessions, lodge an expression of interest and then lodge a formal application. The applicant, should they wish to continue, must then take part in an intensive assessment process where they will be interviewed. An assessor will prepare a detailed report and make recommendations on their suitability as an adoptive parent.

If you are approved for adoption in Western Australia, there is no guarantee that a child will be placed with you. If adopting locally, you will await selection by a birth parent from a number of profiles presented to them. If adopting from overseas, you will wait an average of four to seven years to be offered a child for adoption.

After a child is placed with an adoptive family, he or she remains under the guardianship of the Department for a period of at least six months, before an application for an Adoption Order can be made (Adoption Act, Section 56).

When a placement commences, an Adoption Plan is drawn up between the birth parents and the adoptive parent/s. This may include arrangements for contact between  the child and the birth parents. The Adoption Plan must be approved by the Family Court of Western Australia, but can be changed by agreement between the parties as the child’s needs change, with approval of the court.

Whose consent is required?

Under the Adoption Act 1994, the consent of the child’s legal parents is required. Where the child is aged 12 or more, the child’s consent is also required. (Section 17)

Consent cannot be given conditional on a particular person being the child’s prospective adoptive parent unless that person is a step-parent, relative or carer of the child who wishes to adopt the child (Section 20).

Where the child proposed to be adopted is Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, the Department is required to consult with a member of the Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander community who has relevant knowledge of the child and the child’s community, about the prospective adoption.

When will Adoption Order be made?

The court will make an Adoption Order only if satisfied that effective consent has been given, the placement has been for the required period, and the order being made is the preferable order for the child (Section 68).

What are the costs of adoption?

Adopting a child locally costs around $2000 in legal and administrative costs. Adopting a child from overseas costs between $6000 and $25,000 in legal and administrative costs.

Are there alternatives to adoption?

In some situations, it may be preferable to apply for parenting orders in relation to a child.  This would avoid the need for the Department to be involved in the transfer of the child’s care from his or her birth parents to an adoptive family.

In other situations, it may be preferable to foster the child through the Department, rather than seeking to adopt them. For more information about fostering a child, please see the Department’s website.

Review of the Adoption Act

The Western Australian Adoption Act 1994 is currently under review, with a report due to be tabled by the end of 2018.

If you require assistance with a Family Law matter or any other legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.  


Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts, a Master of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection, domestic violence and family law in the Northern Territory and Queensland.

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